Student opera bring children’s classic alive with summer performance

July 20, 2016

LIVONIA, Mich. – Madonna University’s opera and music students return with their third annual summer performance, this time bringing the children’s classic “Hansel and Gretel” to the stage. 

The opera, written by Engelbert Humperdinck, is a retelling of the classic story about two children who get lost in the woods before meeting the evil witch, who wants to fatten them up before pushing them into the oven. It is produced and directed by Madonna University students, with students playing most of the main roles. Other roles, chorus members and dancers, including a children’s ballet chorus, are played by members of the community. 

Performances are Friday, July 22 and Saturday, July 23, both at 7 p.m. in the University’s Kresge Hall. Tickets are $8 general admission, $5 for students and seniors. 

Madonna student Brittany Dimmitt, director, said the opera “brings the story to life.” It will be performed in English, making it easier for everyone to enjoy the performance.  “I thought it would be a great way to have opera appeal to everyone,” she said. “It's such a beautiful show that kids and adults alike can enjoy.” 

Not only do the summer rehearsals and performances keep music students singing all year long, it also gives students who may be pursuing careers in theater or opera a chance to learn how to direct; choreograph; design lighting, sets, costumes; or other skills, Dimmitt said. “We're all so proud of what we have accomplished this summer,” she said. 

Among the productions challenges have been working with a large group of children, many of whom have never sung or performed before, Dimmitt said. The musical score is also challenging, even for vocal performance students. 

However, producing the show from beginning to end has been worth all the work, Dimmitt said, having started planning with music director Emily Crombez, also a Madonna student, a year ago. “To see how our ideas about casting, set and costumes have to come to fruition a year later is just an amazing feeling,” she said. 

She credits Madonna’s music faculty, especially voice professor Barbara Wiltsie, for inspiring the students to take on the project. “Producing a full opera, as students who are still learning the trade, is not an easy task, but the support we receive from our professors and the Madonna community makes it all possible,” she said. 

In addition to the student directors, Hansel is played by Kathryn Linzmaier, Gretel by Harmoni Salisbury, Mother/Witch by Alisa Pullum, and the Dew Fairy by Shivonne Matthews.